The humble jackfruit is finally getting all the attention it deserves.
A fruit found in abundance in the backyards of almost all the Malayali families, has been ignored for a long time. However, jackfruit — jack of all fruits, made a comeback once its health benefits came into the limelight. The neglected fruit has got its due as the Kerala government declared it as their official state fruit. We have the elephant as our official animal, the great hornbill as bird, Kanikonna as flower and pearl spot as fish. And, now jackfruit has got its due recognition.
People have realised the strength of this largest tree-borne fruit and have slowly started bringing it back to the dining table. If jackfruit dishes were limited to a few earlier, now you could find almost all forms.
“It is a huge step towards popularising the fruit,” opines Manoj Niraksharan, a writer and an ardent jackfruit lover. His love for jackfruit dates back to his childhood. It has never diminished and he still promotes the fruit as he believes it deserves recognition. “Jackfruit is available on our premises. And there are, in fact, more jackfruit trees in our surroundings that produce more than what a family requires. Hence, a lot is wasted,” Manoj says. In his opinion, the current step should help tackle the problem and benefit those who cultivate it. “One reason behind the wastage of jackfruit is that the trees are mostly tall and it is difficult to bring down the fruits borne on the top. So, hopefully with the government declaring it as the state fruit, it would implement mechanisms to properly harvest it and make use of it. Then only the mission would be complete. If you travel to tribal areas, you could see it in every courtyard. It is because jackfruit can amply provide for a family and it is healthy too,” he says.
Nutritionist Priyadarshini elaborates on that. “Jackfruit seeds contain a good amount of protein,” she says. “This can be added to different dishes. Actually, you can replace lentils in your daily diet with this. It can aid healthy blood circulation that is vital for hair growth,” she adds.
Not just that, it is also a great source of Vitamin C and antioxidants, which can strengthen our immune system. “Antioxidants, phytonutrients and flavonoid provides protection from cancer. Antioxidants found in the jackfruit protects the body from free radicals that are produced due to oxidative stress in the body. These often damage the DNA of our cells and in turn produces cancer cells. The fruit is also known for providing protection against colon, lung and oral cavity cancer. It has potassium that maintains the sodium level in the body. Good level of potassium helps to maintain the fluid level to balance electrolytes. Hence, it is useful to reduce high blood pressure, stroke and heart attack,” she adds.
How can we include it in our diet? Besides the seeds, jackfruit flour is available in the market for dishing out jackfruit food. Jeemol Korth Verghese, a baker, has started making jackfruit bread. “It is sugarless bread, which is a mix of jackfruit flour, wheat and ragi. I started experimenting with it as I heard about its healthy side,” she says. She believes that the declaration would bring more attention to the fruit.
“It is always best if the resource of our food is near to us. Then we would get the purest form. That is the bright side of jackfruit. It is available everywhere and when it gets such a recognition, people will start studying more about it,” she feels.
However, Manoj feels that besides acknowledgment, there should be proper ways to popularise the fruit. “It has numerous varieties. Places like Indonesia have similar fruits and the best way to introduce them to our people is by conducting fests.”